Perish Twice

Robert B. Parker, Author Putnam $23.95 (293p) ISBN 978-0-399-14668-8
Boston PI Sunny Randle, given her second outing here, is to Parker's veteran PI Spenser as Pepsi is to Coke: a bit lighter and sweeter, but still the real deal. And in the literary equivalent of a blind taste test, you'd be hard pressed to tell them apart; this second Sunny novel, even more than her first (Family Honor), is a Spenser book wearing a skirt. About now, the author's fans might be yearning for a change of pace of the sort Parker has offered in his stand-alones and his Jesse Stone series; still, what's here is quite good. The novel revolves around assorted couples' dysfunctional liaisons. In one significant subplot, Sunny's obnoxious and spoiled sister, Elizabeth, hires Sunny to trail her husband, whom she suspects of having an affair; when Sunny catches the lothario, Elizabeth leaves him and begins to sleep around. In another, Sunny's old therapist pal, Julie, is having troubles with her beloved and is also starting to date. And in the novel's main plotline, a lesbian activist who hires Sunny to protect her from a stalker also turns out to be stuck in a web of infidelity--and murder. Two killings--a man Sunny pinpoints as the stalker, and a woman who works for the activist--eventually bring Sunny into the orbit of scary black gangster Tony Marcus, who runs prostitution in Boston. The scenes involving Sunny, Marcus and Marcus's underlings crackle with tension and sometimes violence; the rest of the novel presents a wholly absorbing puzzle of confused motives and whodunits that Sunny picks at as doggedly as any PI going. With its smooth blend of mystery, action and psychological probings, this is yet another first-rate, though not innovative, offering from a reliable old master. 15-city author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
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